Tuesday, July 19, 2005

All the Newspeak That's Fit to Print

Editorial Note: The present post is another political one. If you don't like politics, or my take on it, my next post will be more philosophical in nature.) People I respect, like Denyse O'Leary, don't seem to understand how politics and policy fit into the ostensible subject of this forum. Unfortunately I failed in my explanation of the blog's title to expand adequately on the meaning of "physics." I owe you an explanation. Please be patient.

As we saw in "Why Real Physics?, the de-anchoring of purpose from nature not only destroys nature, but also subverts language, making it an instrument for devaluing human life. Following tonight's rhetoric1 in response to the President's announcement of his nomination of Judge Roberts, it is fitting to reflect on the abuse of language.

Phrases like "a voice of reason and moderation" and "embodies the fundamental American values of freedom, equality and fairness" apply only to supporters of legal abortion. While any opponent of abortion "threatens to roll back the rights and freedoms of the American people." These examples are from the New York Times, which, as we saw with regard to Tom Woods, is unabashed in its role of liberal advocacy.

Those with a less antipodean native tongue may find helpful this list of futher translations: Democrat Nomination Translation Table (Hat tip to Tim Carney)

Garbage flows downhill. The Times' misuse of language was first perfected in the academy.2 Compare to the classic Frequently Used Words and Phrases of the PC Lexicon from Harvard's Penninsula.

The co-opting of language for political power is precisely the kind George Orwell epitomizsed in 1984 as Newspeak:

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc [the totalitarian Party], but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought—that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc—should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever....

It would have been quite impossible to render [the Declaration of Independence] into Newspeak while keeping to the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up in the single word crimethink. A full translation could only be an ideological translation, whereby Jefferson’s words would be changed into a panegyric on absolute government.

The moral of the story: the man who says language has no meaning and is only an instrument for power speaks meaningfully only about himself.

Upholding a Grand Tradition

The paradigmatic example New York Times newspeak was its cover-up of the famine from Stalin's forced agricultural collectivization of the Ukraine. Millions starved to death while correspondent Walter Duranty decried the reports as fallacious.
In 1933, at the height of the famine, Duranty wrote that "village markets [were] flowing with eggs, fruit, poultry, vegetables, milk and butter. ... A child can see this is not famine but abundance." (Berlau)
It was Duranty who knowingly denied the famine in dispatches to The New York Times with descriptive euphemisms such as "serious food shortage," "mismanagement of collective farming," a conspiracy of "wreckers" and "spoilers" who had "made a mess of Soviet food production" (i.e. poor Ukrainian peasants who resisted collectivization) and the like. "There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation," he wrote, "but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition." There was suffering, Duranty admitted but "to put it brutally - you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs..." (Kuropas)

No longer are they sons and daughters, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters. They are raw materials indifferently to be used or crushed.

(Further Duranty quotations collected here.)

As Myron Kuropas describes, the Times continued its tradition with its justifications of the wholesale slaughter conducted by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge in 1975. But Pol Pot's two million is hardly an itchy nose compared to 70 million famine-stricken Ukrainians.

The Times has yet to admit any fault. After all, how can one sin if one acts in the name of The Revolution?

If the Times doesn't blush at covering up mass genocide, we can hardly expect it to suffer pangs of conscience over the 34 million children of the post-Roe generation (a third) who will never see the light of day.

More recent Times shananigans here:

Flunking Journalism Ethics 101: NYT Allows News Reporter to Write Op-Ed on Evolution Controversy


1. Transcript of Leahy and Schumer remarks: [FoxNews] [WaPo?] [NYTimes?] Doubtless largely crafted long before the identity of the nominee was clear. Being a speech-writer for such single-note clients must be a boring job: perhaps an industrious programmer could train his computer to do the job at the push of a button. On the other hand, it might be fun to push the limit for the number of histrionic proclamations of imminent apocalyse can one string together in a paragraph without evoking unbridled laughter. More reaction quotations: [AP-NYT]

2. Cf. Thucydides' description of tha Athenian plague as beginning in the head (History of the Peloponnesian War, 49).

David Stout, "Democrats Warn Bush on Choosing Successor to O'Connor," New York Times (July 1, 2005). ["Warn"! O my!]

George Orwell, 1984 (1949),Pt. III, ch. 6.

John Berlau, "Duranty's Deception" Insight (July 7, 2003).

Myron B. Kuropas, "Making omelets at The New York Times," The Ukrainian Weekly 71:10 (March 9, 2003).

Arnold Beichman, "Pulitzer-Winning Lies," The Daily Stardard (June 12, 2003).

1 comment:

Anonymous Avila said...

Great piece, MJ!

Joe Sobran discusses newspeak as part of the liberal quest to centralize all of the power in the government:

Cultural Socialism

Keep up the great work!

Avila ;)